No Future Ch. 18bybradley_stoke©
Faith and Charity
It was a long train ride from Rickmansworth to Reigate, but for Alex it was worth the effort. In any case, the travel time had been reduced to rather less than an hour since the new railway line from his Docklands office has been opened. He could work late, which for form's sake was increasingly often since he'd been promoted to management, and still arrive at Diane's one bedroom flat before dark.
Diane provided probably the best fun Alex had ever had with an internet date. She was amusing. She was good conversation. She was sexy. And she was wonderfully passionate between the sheets.
But there was a reason why she'd advertised her availability on the internet even though she was still in her twenties and four years younger than Alex. And that, despite a regime of several diets and regular exercise, was because she was undeniably plump.
Now she was discussing her plans about changing career. Marketing was no longer the vocation for her she once thought it was.
But a career in the church?
"Relax," said Diane as she pecked Alex affectionately on the cheek. "We can still have sex."
"But with a vicar?" said Alex. "That can't be right."
"It's the Church of England, silly," Diane laughed. "I'm not going to be a nun."
"Can vicars have sex?"
"Why not?" said Diane. "It's not illegal, is it?"
Nevertheless, Alex wouldn't let the subtleties of religious doctrine interfere with a good story. He was happy to announce on his fourth pint in the Archbishop Williams that he was fucking a nun.
"A nun!" exclaimed Dave, who worked in accounts. "That's fucking insane, man. Nuns don't fuck."
"Well, she's not a nun exactly," Alex clarified. "She's applying to be a vicar."
"That's the same thing, innit?" suggested Eddie, a big bearded guy with a management role in HR. "Vicars. Nuns."
"Vicars can fuck," assured Terry. "It's just that most vicars aren't chicks."
"Don't be so sure about that," said Dave. "I've heard that's not true any longer. More women than men work as vicars these days. We'll have a fucking woman archbishop next..."
"Then the pope'll be a chick too," said Eddie. "Only popes can never fuck. Not legally, anyway."
"We need Larry from Religious Affairs to sort us out on all this," Alex joked.
"Don't be a twat," said Eddie. "He's some kind of Muslim or Sikh or something. Anyway, he never drinks. Whatever religion he belongs to, it's against drinking. But still, Alex, your vicar girlfriend sounds better than the last one. She was a fucking farmer's daughter..."
"She's probably gone back to sucking donkey's dicks," sniggered Dave. "Does this nun of yours pray before she fucks?"
"Vicar," corrected Alex. "No, I don't think so."
"Perhaps she'll dump you, so she can stick a crucifix up her twat," suggested Eddie.
"You've seen too many perv pornos, man," said Terry.
"How do you know what they show?" wondered Eddie. "Anyway, it's fucking common knowledge. It's all that sexual frustration, innit?"
Alex enjoyed a good laugh with his mates after work. These days, he had no anxiety about getting a phone call from Gabby demanding his immediate presence. Diane wasn't as experienced or as sexually adventurous, but she compensated for it by the extent of her devotion. Alex wasn't sure he could ever confess to his workmates that he'd met her through a dating website or that she was somewhat overweight. Well, she wasn't obese as such. She didn't have those horrible saggy folds that some women had. And, anyway, more and more women—and men—were overweight these days. Alex sometimes worried about the stomach bulge over his own belt. Being overweight wasn't such a big deal. After all, Diane wasn't as bad as Eddie's wife. She was so obese that Alex wondered about the physical obstacles the couple had to overcome to have sex. Online porn gave helpful advice on this aspect of sex as it did so many other critical questions of the human condition, but it still didn't tempt Alex to seek out Eddie's wife and give it a try himself.
Alex was well suited to life in middle management. He knew he was never going to become a great journalist, even of something as lightweight as VR. He struggled so hard to say anything interesting or enlightening about the virtual world. It was considerably more trivial than television and its content was becoming ever more narrow as the online community ossified around what it was already comfortable with. Even VR porn, on which he was an entirely unacknowledged expert, had become ever less interesting. Perhaps there would be a day when VR rendering was less blocky, when the exasperating jerkiness didn't interfere with rapid scene changes, and when VR entertainment wasn't so slavishly derivative of things that had come before, such as porno movies, gaming, blogs and social network sites. When that day came, transistors would be using graphene rather than silicon, quantum computing would be used for other things than performing calculations on remote servers, and the gear he'd have to clamber into would be more comfortable than the stuff he had to use these days.
The path to being a successful manager at Reuters-Fox was mostly about anticipating the right impression to make to the right people. As long as business affairs were kept in some kind of order and the right numbers were entered into the spreadsheets, Alex's job was mostly measured by his ability to be witty and unthreatening at meetings, to be willing to do stupid overtime even when it wasn't needed, and to be good company in the pub. You didn't get anywhere in Reuters-Fox if you weren't a team-player and didn't have the right attitude.
"You ever thought of moving on from website management?" wondered his line manager, Dick, one day as they stood by the water cooler.
Alex wondered whether this was a trap. If he showed anything less than one hundred and ten percent commitment to the website division, this might be evidence that a more dedicated man or woman should take his place. Perhaps someone like that bitch Fatima whose choice of skirt and blouse was disarmingly revealing. On the other hand, Alex didn't want to be perceived as a man without ambition.
"Only if the right opportunity comes up and I'm the right man for the job," said Alex. "Why? Is there something in the offing?"
"I don't know about that," said Dick. "ITN's not been doing so well recently. A merger of the news operations might be on the cards. It's only talk, mind you."
"Reuters-Fox-ITN?" Alex speculated.
"I doubt it," said Dick. "We'll cherry-pick the best and flog the rest. Take out the opposition and strip them of their assets. But there'll be some growth opportunities for us, I guess. Then there'd be only the pinko BBC to worry about."
Alex noticed no evidence of merger activity after this brief chat, though he now kept a closer eye on news stories about the venerable Independent Television News organisation. Advertising revenue was declining and aggregated news was very much the trend. Any organisation that employed foreign correspondents and featured original news content was at a disadvantage when the most important asset was timely, glossy and instant news coverage. It was a race between news companies in which the winners was the one whose cameras were first at a riot, whose spokespersons were the first to stand knee-deep in flood waters, whose correspondent was first parachuted down into a war zone, and whose paparazzi got the most explicit footage of a film star's love life.
"I'm not sure I like how the news media is so much more focussed on attracting advertising revenue than it is on providing objective news," mused Diane in her bed, on which were strewn pillows, fluffy toys and her own smooth bulging body.
Alex continued to stroke her buttocks while she reciprocated by pecking him gently around the crotch.
"Fair and Balanced is Reuters-Fox's watchword," he said.
"Not Truthful and Objective I note," Diane responded. "When I go to a news website I want to find out what's going on in the world. I don't want to be distracted by news stories about the latest pop star scandal."
"It's what the public wants."
"That's not good enough," said Diane with a frown. "The media should be more ethical than that. There are too many major stories hidden behind dross. And it's not just your employers, of course, though they must be amongst the worst. Where are the headlines about the droughts in Africa? What about the dispute over water resources in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh? What about the flooding on the Pacific islands? You hardly hear a thing about the wars in Senegal, Mozambique, Colombia or Nepal."
"We'd be out of business if we didn't give people what they wanted."
"That's just turning the argument upside down. Surely being informed is what people want when they go to a news website."
"I'm not sure it is," Alex admitted.
"And you think that's how it should be?"
"Not really. It's just how it is."
Diane sighed. She rolled her body round and let Alex slip an arm behind her shoulders. "I often think you're too accepting of how things are," she told him. "What's important is not that, but what we should do to make things better."
"Is that why you want to be a vicar?" wondered Alex.
"That's a motivation for sure but if that was the only thing then I'd do better to work for a charity. Or, at a pinch, a political party. There are other things vicars do besides campaign to help starving people in Africa and Asia. There's the matter of believing in God and choosing to work as a shepherd to His flock. You and I, we never talk about religion, I know, but it's a pretty important thing for me."
"Well, I know you go to church every Sunday," said Alex, who'd never much enjoyed this disruption to the weekend when he stayed over at Diane's studio bedsit.
"So, what do you do that makes the world a better place?" wondered Diane with what Alex felt was more than a hint of accusation.
"Not as much as you," Alex replied diplomatically.
"You don't do anything at all," said Diane rather more firmly. "I honestly wonder why we even have a relationship at all."
Alex could see this threat to his comfortable status quo was one that he had to address, but it was also one that he was already aware of. He sometimes felt uncomfortable with her just as he once used to be with Betty and never once with his workmates. Why should he ever need to justify himself? It wasn't as if he ever did anything bad. He wasn't the one pumping oil and methane up from the ocean floor. He wasn't the one exploiting the poor and downtrodden of the world. He wasn't the one digging in his feet with regards to policies to implement low carbon options in energy and transport. Why should he get the blame? After all, the worst he ever did was vote Conservative at the general elections and that was more because he was fed up with paying so much of his income as tax than from any desire to support the rich and trample down the poor.
"The reason we have a relationship, sweetheart," said Alex as he stroked his finger over Diane's still moist labia, "is this."
"I guess you're right," said Diane with an indulgent smile.